Imagine you’re Andre Ethier. I know, but try anyway.
You’ve been a fixture in the Los Angeles lineup for the last seven years. You’re in the midst of a five-year, $85-million contract. Last year you stepped in for an injured Matt Kemp, moved to center field and played it very well. This season you’ve willingly played all three outfield positions and even a little first base.
And now Saturday in a nationally televised game against the Giants’ Matt Cain, a right-hander you’ve actually had great success against, you sit.
You can imagine he’s not the happiest player in town. Ethier was not in the clubhouse before Saturday’s game to comment, but mind-reading is probably not required here.
Saturday’s outfield is Carl Crawford in left, Kemp in center and Yasiel Puig in right.
Normally this season, either Kemp or Puig would alternate skipping a start against a right-hander. All of April had proved an outfield shuffle, with Scott Van Slyke joining the fun against left-handers.
But Manager Don Mattingly said on Thursday that the competition had ended in two outfield spots.
“I think Yasiel’s established himself in right field, pretty much, as the guy,” Mattingly said. “Matt’s been playing, I think, well. He’s been swinging the bat better.”
Which leaves Ethier and Crawford battling for playing time against right-handers, and Mattingly rather curiously chose Crawford on Saturday. Mattingly said Ethier was completely healthy, but he last started on Wednesday.
Puig has been on a tear this month, and I get his earning a spot. Since April 30 he’s batting .405 with two home runs and nine RBI. But during that same period Kemp hasn’t been any more productive than the other three remaining outfielders.
He’s hitting .333, but it’s pretty empty with two doubles, no home runs and one RBI. Ethier is also hitting .333, with three doubles and three RBI. Crawford has hit .364 with one homer and five RBI.
Yet somehow Kemp has won a spot. Based on what? Potential, being the squeaky wheel? Kemp is the one outfielder who refused to adopt the team-comes-first mantra and complained when he did not start.
And Saturday, Ethier is sitting against a top pitcher, that he happens to be hitting .429 (30 for 70) against?
This could prove tricky territory. Though he’s calmed down some the past couple of years, Ethier has had his emotional moments in the past. And right now it’s not difficult to imagine he’s not feeing giddy.